In the “Media 1.0″ world of a couple decades ago, where breaking news first appeared in print newspapers or on the 6 o’clock evening network TV news broadcast, the arrival of CNN’s 24-hour news coverage created serious upheaval.
While many news watchers may have stayed loyal to the paper or Brokaw for in-depth coverage and analysis, they increasingly tuned into CNN to see what was happening *right now*.
Fast forward to 2009, and Twitter is pulling a CNN on blogs. Where as recently as a few years ago the blogosphere represented one of the fastest ways to take a pulse of the online zeitgeist, nowadays it seems almost as slow as waiting for the evening news used to be.
That’s why the announcement today of WordPress supporting rssCloud matters. Automattic is trying to kick blogs back into the realtime conversation.
Part of the allure of Twitter is the near instantaneous view it provides into hot topics, reflected as trending subjects. Within seconds or minutes of a major piece of news breaking – from a celebrity passing to a politician cheating to a football player punching (arrrgh) – you’ll find thousands of people talking about it on Twitter.
With blogs, you have to wait for the posts to be composed, RSS readers to refresh, and then…you’re probably on Twitter by then anyway to find the hottest blog topics. rssCloud can’t tackle the issue of the time it takes to compose a coherent blog post vs a 140-character tweet, but it can minimize the time lag from posting to reading, and that’s an important start.
Yes, they difference can be as small as a few minutes, but in today’s obsessive world of memes that bloom and die within hours or even minutes, those minutes matter. rssCloud could be a very interesting experiment for the WordPress community, and bloggers as a whole.
As an aside: I read Andy Beal’s post asking if this announcement from Automattic isn’t just some “oooh, look! shiny!” sleight-of-PR-hand. My take – yes, it probably was to some degree. It may have been lucky timing for Matt and team, or it may have been an announcement planned for later that they pulled forward to change the subject. Either way, while Automattic still should focus on boosting WP’s rep for secure code, that doesn’t change the *potential* importance of the rssCloud announcement.
I get this question a lot:
“If I’m serious about my blogging efforts, shouldn’t I be hosting my blog with my own ISP?”
The answer, like so many things, is “it depends.” For most individuals and even small businesses, I actually recommend starting out with WordPress.com. Only making the leap to a self-hosted option when (and if) you run up against certain specific needs. Such as:
- Do you truly *need* a heavily customized blog design? For example, to tie back in to your corporate branding?
- Do you need to do something unique, such as hosting and displaying a deep video library? (though VideoPress may be a viable option now)
- Do you need a custom plugin not offered by WP.com?
- Do you want to run your own advertising?
- Do you need to hack the core WordPress PHP files to do interesting things?
If “no” was the answer the above, then just stick with WordPress.com. After all, it does offer a wealth of free options, highly quality themes, and serious premium options, such as private branding and custom CSS, to make it suitable for most blogging efforts (such as Mayo Clinic’s excellent blogs).
So start small, focus on the content, and don’t hassle with self-hosting unless you need to.
Enjoy your long weekend!
It seems the era of boring blog comment sections is over – from WordPress introducing threaded comments to CommentLuv, Gravatars, and tweetbacks, there are more tools than ever to liven up your post comments and get the whole “community fu” flowing strong.
What are they? Broadly speaking, they are all hosted web services that attempt to link comments by individuals across the blogosphere, embedded in your WordPress install with a plugin. They also, to varying degrees, attempt to expand on the idea of ping/trackbacks – links to your post from other blogs – and display all inbound links from across the social media landscape, such tweets, social bookmarks, and so on.
They also make commenting a bit more fun, and coherent, for your readers. Using a single sign on they can track their own comments across the blogosphere – or at least, across any other blogs that happen to be using the same commenting system (maybe someone can create a tool to integrate your comments into one viewable pane?).
I should note – this isn’t a review post, as I haven’t used all three systems enough to make a properly informed judgement. This is just to highlight three alternatives to help make your blog comments a bit more interactive.
However, based on the various reviews I’ve seen, the cheat sheet version based on my own quick judgement is:
- Disqus: Most established player, in wide use, new updates. Works decently well on my current blog.
- IntenseDebate: Owned by the guys who built WordPress, so lots of hope for future development, though enough complaints on current stability to give me pause.
- JS-Kit Echo: Newest entrant, loaded with interesting functionality and a clean UI, though this one is a “premium” (you pay) plugin.
From my incredibly unscientific scanning of the Web, armed with patented Mark I Eyeballs, Disqus is the “grandpa” of the crowd, having launched first. It offers very easy integration with WordPress, a nice moderation screen (both in WP dashboard and external), and a fantastic sidebar. I use it on my Social Mallard blog and have seen it in heavy rotation throughout the blogosphere, though that may reflect their early entrance into the market.
The Disqus team launched a recent update (August 25, 2009), effectively splitting the service into two parts: Disqus Comments, the comment management system for bloggers, and Disqus Profile, a separate comment management system just for commenters.
A relatively recent (one year ago) acquisition by the team at Automattic, I’ve been hesitant to try it on my blogs due to some bloggers having significant challenges with it (example) To be fair though, I’ve come across a lot of bloggers who love it and prefer it over Disqus. To each their own.
The fact that ID is now run by the guys at Automattic inspires a bit of confidence, as they put out some world class products.
See the complete feature list.
See the complete feature list – it’s fairly exhaustive.
A big difference between Echo and the others? Echo isn’t free – $12 a month for the “Live” version, and I can’t locate a totally free option.
After my recent post questioning the future of free, quality themes for WordPress, I decided to re-familiarize myself with what’s available and also discover a theme or two for use on an upcoming side project.
Ask and ye shall receive, it seems. A couple days ago Weblog Tools Collection posted one of their common theme release updates, and this one included “Empty Canvas” from Rubiqube.
I’m tiring a bit on complex theme frameworks, and love the idea of a nice, basic canvas with clean typography to draw a new design on. What I also like about Empty Canvas is I can see myself converting my personal blog (now on Thesis) over to it as is, perhaps with a tweak or two in the header – it’s just refreshing to look at, and under the covers it has none of the complexity (and, of course, none of the admin features) of some of the more popular premium themes on the market today.
I’m looking forward to trying out Empty Canvas on any upcoming project – I’ll share here how it turns out.